When Spirit of the West wrote “Save This House” as an environmental call to action 27 years ago, they probably never fathomed 2017’s brand of social unrest and the upside-down/inside-out world we currently find ourselves in. Today, as in 1990, the enemy is humanity. Greed, corruption, consumption, and consumerism. Ignorance, fear, insolence, and denial. When John Mann howls “Wake me up! Wake me up!” it’s not a warning that the world is teetering on the brink of irreparable environmental damage from climate change, it’s a realization that we’ve already gone beyond the point of no return.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been watching democracy and human decency decay before my very eyes on the screens that surround me, all the while thinking “This isn’t possible. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen.” I’m seeing the news, and the unimaginable is happening every day. Mann’s lyrics were written about environmental issues, but they’re just as applicable and relevant today. We’re living in the hottest and most volatile social climate of our generation. The change is not happening a million miles away, but right in the neighbourhoods we live in. Last week’s shooting in Québec City was a sobering example of hate and discrimination writ large. Added to the the less publicized accounts of racially motivated violence and discrimination that have been popping into our newsfeed recently, it amounts to a tidal shift. I keep hearing politicians and pundits commenting that these acts are not reflective of who we are as Canadians, even though these acts are being carried out by Canadians.
Is, to paraphrase Mann and Spirit of the West, the party over? Have apathy and hatred won over over empathy and human decency? Do we follow America’s lead and change the locks? Something tells me it’s too late for that. We’re closer to our collective house being a disgrace now than we’ve been in my lifetime, but there’s still time.
An event like the Québec City mosque shootings can rouse a society from numbness and apathy. Canada has reacted admirably and stoically in the face of hate, but if we are to sustain our fight against discrimination, we need to be proactive. We need to feed the fire of our fury and fervor beyond the newscycle. Am I suggesting that a 27 year old song is the answer to combating apathy and ignorance? Not all on its own. But before there is a fire, there must be a spark that can burst into flame. “Save This House” sounds like an ignitor to me.